They were never going to become the second victims of a Catalan lightning strike. Juventus have been snuffing out the foolish dreams of their rivals for a century and more. Hopes of another “remuntada” were returned to sender on Wednesday night.
From the outset, Max Allegri’s side delivered a statement of intent with an early pressing game that said they had not made the trip to Spain to be one more sacrificial lamb. They would fall back in due course, but everything they did smacked of a professional confidence that they would see their mission accomplished. This was the A-Team carrying out a clinical hit job on foreign soil.
It was a night when, bit by bit, the Bianconeri smothered the life out of Luis Enrique’s side, who had run out of ideas long before the final whistle blew. He had said pre-match that his team needed five goals if they hoped to make it through. But La Vecchia Signora only concedes that number of strikes once in a lifetime - or maybe less often than that.
Some may struggle to appreciate the art of defence but, if they opened their eyes, they would have seen the revelation. Every single player for the Turin giants put in the kind of effort that made it almost impossible to break them down. When Neymar or Leo Messi beat one player, another and another and another popped up to block his path. They formed a black-and-white assault course none of the Blaugrana’s stellar cast came close to completing.
The Serie A champions were resolute and professional at the back, but also cool when they did get possession. The final ball failed them on occasions, but time after time it looked like they would soon send Juan Cuadrado speeding away for a goal. That would have been the icing on a cake which surely tasted pretty sweet to Beppe Marotta and company already.
There was a message here from the Italian outfit for anyone who cared to read it. There might well be other sides left in the Champions League who can attack better, look more exciting or play more expansive football. However, when it comes to being an all-round team and working as a well-drilled unit, this Juventus is the real deal.
This was a triumph to savour for a while, but then move on quickly to the job in hand, trying to take the trophy. Juventus have shown the steel, skill and determination to confirm themselves as genuine contenders. In Paris, one imagines, there will have been many Gallic sighs of regret at the thought of what might have been if their team could have shown such qualities.
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